This week I did my first in-person meeting with a group of fellow-school leaders as they plan for the beginning of a new school year.Photo by Brad Barmore – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@bradbarmore?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-creditThe team of administrators sat in a room with tables at appropriate distances, and we wore masks. Whenever I wear a mask, my glasses become foggy. So I held my glasses in one hand while we talked through topics on school culture, planning for the upcoming year, supporting teachers in the “new norms” ahead. As we took turns sharing ideas and reflecting together, I noticed how different interactions can be wearing masks.We couldn’t see mouths or full facial expressions. We had to talk talk louder than normal and really enunciate words. But as the session continued, everyone seemed to become less mask-distracted and more focused on discussions and problem solving.In the weeks and months ahead, I don’t know what is in store for you. You may be alternating days students come to school. Or perhaps your district is beginning with all students in remote learning. Maybe you are in a location where in-person is beginning with blended or virtual options together. As I’ve connected with leaders in my own state and across the U.S., I am hearing so many different plans. But all of them have one thing in common: No one has ever done school like this before.We are all Tweeners. In Dr. Anthony Muhammad’s excellent book, Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division (Leading the Four Types of Teachers and Creating a Positive School Culture), he identifies four types of educators who make up the culture of any school. He calls them Believers, Tweeners, Survivors, and Fundamentalists. Check out PMP202 if you want to hear Dr. Muhammad explain each category in our interview together. But for the sake of this post, I want to remind you that a Tweener is someone new to the profession, impressionable, and looking for feedback. A Tweener is also most susceptible to the healthy or toxic cultures he or she encounters.In other words, Tweener educators most need mentors who are optimistic and encouraging because they are desperately searching for their own identity in their new surroundings. A good fellow-educator can be a lifeline for a Tweener who needs strong role-modeling and encouragement in his or her first year.Educators have a unique challenge this year, however. Even though some are more experienced than others or have weathered crises in the past, no one has weathered a global pandemic of this proportion in our lifetime.Let me be clear. Optimism and hope are essential if we are going to lead forward during the days ahead. It doesn’t mean you cannot be transparent or admit your disappointment or frustrations. But it does require a commitment. The ability for you to lead forward with hope will often be the catalyst that drives your school culture. Don’t get me wrong.